By Sunny Chuba Nwachukwu
The act of vandalism and oil theft in the Nigeria’s oil industry, by faceless individuals/locals over the years is indeed worrisome. These persons or human agents, who mindlessly perpetrate such evil and wickedness against the state over the past decades, by destroying the infrastructure built for crude oil transportation and other facilities meant for seamless marketing operations in the midstream oil subsector of the economy, is a battle that must be tactically fought with strategic management skills by the national oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), now that about $4 billion is going to be spent on revamping the damaged pipelines!
Going down memory lane in the days of “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI), the decrees promulgated by the then military regime against criminals caught vandalizing bridge hand railings on highways all over the country; and the dismantling of the high tension electric cables along major highways by hoodlums, attracted capital punishment or life imprisonment. We all need to be reminded also that, such penalties never deterred the criminals and offenders from perpetuating their criminal activities! The hardened criminals actually succeeded in rendering those expensive and beautifully built hand railings on most Nigerian bridges in the nation’s highways useless through the act of vandalism. Examples are all the hand railings on the bridges along Lagos-Badagry express way, up to Seme border. That of high tension cables resulted in endemic power outages and blackout in some parts of the country.
In identifying the root causes, they include poverty (in all its ramifications), penchant for “get rich quick syndrome”, greed to covet, total lack of “moral values” towards proper care in preserving public property for the society, inordinate ambition exhibited by the uninformed and timid illiterate peasants located in remote villages all over Nigeria, and more, are not left out. These antisocial vices manifesting in these culprits provide evidence that should prompt “adjustments”, “adaptation” of selected choices for improved results in tackling these challenges, and “adoption” of the most feasible, result oriented options amongst them that must be applied for full implementation. This, therefore, leads me to try to proffer some suggestions that could be strategically effective in securing public assets and properties, such as in this discourse, the pipelines that shall be replaced/repaired/rebuilt, within the network traversing the entire mapped out locations and pipeline stations, as it were.
With the current projects by the NNPC in restoring the downstream oil operations alongside the ongoing rehabilitations of local refineries in the country, the huge amount as budgeted ($4 billion) for the fixing of the 5,000 kilometer pipeline network, necessitates that adequate security for protection of these national assets, obviously identified as critical infrastructure for a successful and uninterruptible flow of crude oil from the oil fields to pipeline stations and the local refineries, ought to be carefully worked out with a long term plan that shall be strategically and effectively put in place.
The human factors being considered for the successful strategy being suggested involve applying principles of simple mentality that bothers on inclusive participation by committed citizens as official custodians who are also the security agents and operatives employed from the host communities where these facilities exist. This is the very first step that shall be taken through the functions and services of the human resources division of the NNPC. It is a known fact that participatory leadership has satisfactorily proven that inclusiveness in shared responsibility, drastically reduces rate of crime and blackmail, among diverse stakeholders in every identified programme or project with stakes in common or mutual interests. The technical aspect of this human psychology is based on the fact that every stakeholder shall be actively involved in making sure that such treasures left in their hands are never tampered with and are well protected by those projected to be involved to be involved at the same time because, the stakeholders involved would never wish to be implicated or found wanting in such security breach. An African adage equally says that, “dog does not eat bones entrusted/hung on its neck”.
It is, therefore, noteworthy, that by this suggestion the act of vandalism and future attempts to continually sabotage the efforts of the state tbrough mindless destruction of pipelines and oil theft by villagers and their accomplices, are checked and effectively put under firm control through the engagement of security outfits that shall specifically employ youngsters for manning of the facilities within those respective communities where pipelines are laid.
The advantages in such strategic arrangements are enormous because, apart from such employees protecting their jobs, which is their primary means and source of livelihood, the ripple effect along the economic value chains (vis a vis the daily commercial activities going on at such spots of pipeline stations) shall equally be collectively and jealously guarded or protected by everyone for their assured sustainable economic life. This strategic module, for the reduction of the crime being committed through the destruction of pipeline facilities, should start now, and be applied from this period, after such huge investment is sunk in.
Nwachukwu, a graduate of pure and applied chemistry with an MBA in management, is an Onitsha based industrialist, a fellow of ICCON, and vice president, finance, Onitsha Chamber of Commerce.
Sunny Chuba Nwachukwu (FICCON, LS) Onitsha, +2348033182105